Loving Perfectly

Her voice shook as she shared the problems she was having with her daughter. Worried about her teenager’s questionable friends, this concerned mum confiscated her daughter’s mobile phone and chaperoned her everywhere. Their relationship seemed only to go from bad to worse.

            When I spoke with the daughter, I discovered that she loves her mum dearly but is suffocating under a smothering love. She longs to break free.

            As imperfect beings, we all struggle in our relationships. Whether we are a parent or child, single or married, we grapple with expressing love the right way, saying and doing the right thing at the right time. We grow in love throughout our lifetime.

            In 1 Corinthians 13 the apostle Paul outlines what perfect love looks like. His standard sounds wonderful, but putting that love into practice can be absolutely daunting. Thankfully, we have Jesus as our example. As He interacted with people with varying needs and issues, He showed us what perfect love looks like in action. As we walk with Him, keeping ourselves in His love and steeping our mind in His Word, we’ll reflect more and more of His likeness. We’ll still make mistakes, but God is able to redeem them and cause good to come out of every situation, for His love “always protects” and it “never fails” (vv. 7–8).

Lack Nothing

Imagine going on a trip without luggage. No basic necessities. No change of clothing. No money or credit cards. Sounds both unwise and terrifying, doesn’t it?

But that’s exactly what Jesus told His twelve disciples to do when He sent them out on their first mission to preach and heal. “Take nothing for the journey except a staff” said Jesus. “No bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt” (Mark 6:8–9).

Yet later on when Jesus was preparing them for their work after He was gone, He told His disciples, “If you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36).

So, what’s the point here? It’s about trusting God to supply.

When Jesus referred back to that first trip, He asked the disciples, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” And they answered, “Nothing” (vv. 35–36). The disciples had everything they needed to carry out what God had called them to do. He was able to supply them with the power to do His work (Mark 6:7).

Do we trust God to supply our needs? Are we also taking personal responsibility and planning? Let’s have faith that He will give us what we need to carry out His work.

Finding Life

The words of Ravi’s father cut deep. “You’re a complete failure. You’re an embarrassment to the family.” Compared to his talented siblings, Ravi was viewed as a disgrace. He tried excelling in sports, and he did, but he still felt like a loser. He wondered, What is going to become of me? Am I a complete failure? Can I get out of life some way, painlessly? These thoughts haunted him, but he talked to no one. That simply wasn’t done in his culture. He had been taught to “keep your private heartache private; keep your collapsing world propped up.”

 So Ravi struggled alone. Then while he was recovering in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt, a visitor brought him a Bible opened to John 14. His mother read these words of Jesus to Ravi: “Because I live, you also will live” (v. 19). This may be my only hope, he thought. A new way of living. Life as defined by the Author of life. So he prayed, “Jesus, if You are the one who gives life as it is meant to be, I want it.”

Life can present despairing moments. But like Ravi, we can find hope in Jesus who is “the way and the truth and the life” (v. 6). God longs to give us a rich and satisfying life.

Wounds from a Friend

Charles Lowery complained to his friend about lower back pain. He was seeking a sympathetic ear, but what he got was an honest assessment. His friend told him, “I don’t think your back pain is your problem; it’s your stomach. Your stomach is so big it’s pulling on your back.”

In his column for REV! Magazine, Charles shared that he resisted the temptation to be offended. He lost the weight and his back problem went away. Charles recognized that “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Prov. 27:5–6).

The trouble is that so often we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism, for truth hurts. It bruises our ego, makes us uncomfortable, and calls for change.

True friends don’t find pleasure in hurting us. Rather, they love us too much to deceive us. They are people who, with loving courage, point out what we may already know but find hard to truly accept and live by. They tell us not only what we like to hear but also what we need to hear.

Solomon honored such friendship with proverbs. Jesus went further—He endured the wounds of our rejection not only to tell us the truth about ourselves but to show us how much we are loved. 

A Safe Place

A young Japanese man had a problem—he was afraid of leaving his house. To avoid other people, he slept through the day and stayed up all night watching TV. He was a hikikomori or a modern-day hermit. The problem began when he stopped going to school because of poor grades. The longer he remained apart from society, the more he felt like a social misfit. Eventually he broke off all communication with his friends and family. He was helped on his journey to recovery, though, by visiting a youth club in Tokyo known as an ibasho—a safe place where broken people could start reintroducing themselves to society.

            What if we thought of the church as an ibasho—and far more? Without a doubt, we are a community of broken people. When the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he described their former way of life as anti-social, harmful, and dangerous to themselves and others (1 Cor. 6:9–10). But in Jesus they were being transformed and made whole. And Paul encouraged these rescued people to love one another, to be patient and kind, not to be jealous or proud or rude (13:4-7).

            The church is to be an ibasho where all of us, no matter what struggles or brokenness we face, can know and experience God’s love. May the hurting world experience the compassion of Christ from all who follow Him.

Worth the Calories?

I love egg roti prata, a popular pancake in my country of Singapore. So I was intrigued to read that a 125-pound (57 kg) person must run 5 miles (8 km) per hour for 30 minutes to burn 240 calories. That’s equivalent to only one egg roti prata.

Ever since I started working out in the gym, those numbers have taken on a new significance for me. I find myself asking: Is this food worth the calories?

While it is wise to watch our food consumption, it is even more important to watch our media consumption. Research shows that what we see can stay in our minds for a long time and influence our behavior. It has a “clingy effect,” sticking to us like that stubborn fat we find so hard to lose.

With the wide variety of media content surrounding us today, we need to be discerning consumers. That doesn’t mean we read only Christian literature or watch only faith-related movies, but we are careful about what we allow our eyes to see. We might ask ourselves: Is this worth my time?

In Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul tells us in essence, “Feed your eyes and minds on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy.” This is a “diet” worthy of what Christ has done and is doing in us. 

Who Will Tell Them?

World War II had ended. Peace had been declared. But young Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda of the Japanese Imperial Army, stationed on an island in the Philippines, didn’t know the war had ended. Attempts were made to track him down. Leaflets were dropped over his location, telling him the war was over. But Onoda, whose last order in 1945 was to stay and fight, dismissed these attempts and leaflets as trickery or propaganda from the enemy. He did not surrender until March 1974—nearly 30 years after the war had ended—when his former commanding officer traveled from Japan to the Philippines, rescinded his original order, and officially relieved Onoda of duty. Onoda finally believed the war was over.

            When it comes to the good news about Jesus Christ, many still haven’t heard or don’t believe that He has “destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). And some of us who have heard and believed still live defeated lives, trying to survive on our own in the jungle of life.

            Someone needs to tell them the glorious news of Christ’s victory over sin and death. Initially, they may respond with skepticism or doubt, but take heart. Imagine the freedom they’ll find when Christ illumines their mind with the knowledge that the battle has been won.

Human Race

The alarm clock goes off. Too early, it seems. But you have a long day ahead. You have work to do, appointments to keep, people to care for, or all this and more. Well, you are not alone. Each day, many of us rush from one matter to another. As someone has wittily suggested, “That’s why we are called the human race.”

            When the apostles returned from their first mission trip, they had a lot to report. But Mark did not record Jesus’ evaluation of the disciples’ work; rather, he focused on His concern that they rest awhile. Jesus said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (6:31).  

            Ultimately, we find true rest through recognizing the presence of God and trusting Him. While we take our responsibilities seriously, we also recognize that we can relax our grip on our work and careers, our families and ministry, and give them over to God in faith. We can take time each day to tune out the distractions, put away the tense restlessness, and reflect in gratitude on the wonder of God’s love and faithfulness.

            So stop and take a breath. Get some real rest.

Learning to Love

Love does more than make “the world go round,” as an old song says. It also makes us immensely vulnerable. From time to time, we may say to ourselves: “Why love when others do not show appreciation?” or “Why love and open myself up to hurt?” But the apostle Paul gives a clear and simple reason to pursue love: “These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Follow the way of love” (1 Cor. 13:13–14:1).

            “Love is an activity, the essential activity of God himself,” writes Bible commentator C. K. Barrett, “and when men love either Him or their fellow-men, they are doing (however imperfectly) what God does.” And God is pleased when we act like Him.

            To begin following the way of love, think about how you might live out the characteristics listed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. For example, how can I show my child the same patience God shows me? How can I show kindness and respect for my parents? What does it mean to look out for the interests of others when I am at work? When something good happens to my friend, do I rejoice with her or am I envious?

            As we “follow the way of love,” we’ll find ourselves often turning to God, the source of love, and to Jesus, the greatest example of love. Only then will we gain a deeper knowledge of what true love is and find the strength to love others like God loves us.